On my radar: Craig Charles’s cultural highlights

The actor and DJ on Jean-Michel Basquiat, horror film Mother!, John Bishop’s chatshow, the magic of Altrincham Market and rising funksters the Allergies

Born in Liverpool, Craig Charles began his career as a poet, performing on various television and radio programmes. In 1988, he landed the role of Dave Lister in the science-fiction comedy series Red Dwarf; since then, he has had a number of roles on television, including presenting Robot Wars (1998-2004) and playing Lloyd Mullaney in Coronation Street (2005-2015). More recently, he has appeared in new episodes of Red Dwarf and presents The Gadget Show on Channel 5. The Craig Charles Funk and Soul Show is on Radio 6 Music every Saturday, and his House Party is on Radio 2, also on Saturdays. Charles’s Funk & Soul Club Volume 5 compilation is out on Friday 8 December on Freestyle Records.

cover of the cartel by don winslow

1 | Book

The Cartel by Don Winslow

This is an absolutely stunning book. It’s about the Mexican drug wars from the 1980s up to the present day and the battle between the cartels and the FBI and the CIA, and all these American agencies trying to close them down, along with the Mexican government. The central character, a guy called Adán Barrera, is the head of one of the cartels. It’s fiction, but it’s so realistic that it reads like a piece of investigative journalism. It’s riveting: the intensity of it, the amount of detail and the complexity of the plot just draw you in. So I’ve just started reading his next one, The Force, which is brilliant.

2 | Art

Basquiat: Boom for Real at the Barbican, London

jean-michel basquiat painting on an exterior wall in switzerland in 1983
Jean-Michel Basquiat at work in Switzerland, 1983: ‘Without him, there would be no Banksy.’ Photograph: Lee Jaffe/Getty Images

My 20-year-old daughter, who’s reading English at King’s College London, brought me to this. I didn’t know much about Basquiat until then, so it was a revelation; I’ve since read up about him because I was quite affected by it. He was the father of that graffiti movement; without Jean-Michel Basquiat, there wouldn’t be a Banksy. He was friends with the stars, such as Andy Warhol and Madonna, and he elevated celebrity to a kind of art form in itself. He didn’t handle fame very well and it all spiralled out of control – he got into drugs and all that. Some of his work was like a riot of colour, but some of it was quite dark as well. It was a really fascinating exhibition.

3 | Film

Mother! (Darren Aronofsky, 2017)

jennifer lawrence in a scene from mother!
Jennifer Lawrence in Mother!: ‘It really sucked me in.’ Photograph: Niko Tavernise/AP

This is a psychological thriller and a proper horror film. Jennifer Lawrence is the young wife of a writer played by Javier Bardem and they live in a mansion in the middle of nowhere, like in all good horror films, surrounded by nothing but the woods. Then two strangers come to stay and it gets really weird. There are some real jaw-dropping moments where you think, is this happening? It really sucked me in and I felt quite disquieted when I left the movie theatre. I very rarely go to horror films, but I was with my wife and my daughter and it was two against one. I came out thinking: “Wow. If that’s what horror films are like, I’ll go and see more.”

4 | Play

The Lion King, Lyceum theatre, London

dancers on stage in the lion king
The Lion King: ‘The way the performers become the animals is absolutely stunning.’ Photograph: Catherine Ashmore

We went to this as a family the other day. I’ve got a 14-year-old daughter, Nellie, who’s a fantastic singer, and she wants us to take her to see musicals. We’d been to Les Misérables recently but I found the production looked really tired, and I was quite disappointed. So when we went to see The Lion King a few weeks ago, I didn’t have great hopes because the production has been around for so long. But man, was I surprised. It was an absolute spectacle. The way the performers become the animals is absolutely stunning, with the singing, the lights, the atmosphere. I’m not a big fan of musicals, but it was a great evening’s entertainment. I came out of it feeling really uplifted.

5 | Restaurant

Altrincham Market

people seated and eating at altrincham market in cheshire
Something for everyone: people enjoying lunch at Altrincham Market, Cheshire. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian

In Cheshire, not far from where I live, they’ve opened up this old market. I’ve recently discovered it and it’s just fantastic. There are benches and long tables in the middle of the market and around the edges you’ve got all these different vendors selling street food: the nicest pizzas, burgers, Thai food, a wine shop. I like Italian food and I love Asian fusion – Australasian cuisine is gorgeous. The atmosphere in the market is absolutely brilliant and it’s always packed. When you live in a house where everyone’s got different tastes, and everyone wants to do different things, you can actually go to the one place, everyone can have what they want, and you can all still be together.

6 | Music

The Allergies: Push On (Jalapeno Records)

the members of the group the allergies posing in tracksuits
The Allergies: ‘They seem to be able to feel what the dance floor wants and move it in that direction.’ Photograph: Allergies

I’ve chosen this as my album of the year on my Radio 6 Music show. The Allergies are two boys from Bristol and they’re fantastic. I predict big things for them, because the album is right on the money. It takes the golden era of black American music, twists it all up and makes it relevant for a modern dance floor. I love their sense of rhythm and the way they use samples. They’re brilliant live too – they seem to be able to feel what the dance floor wants and move it in that direction. It’s very spontaneous and they’re not just pressing play – they’re mixing it and creating it as they go along. It’s lovely to watch.

7 | TV

John Bishop: In Conversation With…

john bishop on the set of in conversation with
John Bishop: ‘He’s turned the chatshow into the art of conversation again.’ Photograph: UKTV

I was on John Bishop’s chatshow [on the W channel] recently and I really liked the way he interviewed me. So I watched some of his other interviews, with Joan Collins and Mel C, and they were fascinating. He’s very relaxed, with a great sense of timing. He just talks to one guest for a whole hour, so it’s not rushed – you can tell stories, play around, go off on meanders. On some chatshows, you get a celebrity on, six minutes, next celebrity, six minutes. But you can’t really get to the heart of someone in six minutes. The chatshow has become a promotional tool, but John Bishop has turned it into the art of conversation again.

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Sarah Harford

The GuardianTramp

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